In just a matter of 10 hours students who worked with former International Student Services Coordinator Huey-Shi Chew managed to get 78 signatures demanding information about the termination of Chew’s employment.
“We are curious as to what specific standards of the university Huey-Shi [Chew] failed to meet,” The petition says, “Based upon the information currently available to students, it would seem that Huey-Shi was very satisfactory, and that her future at Western was promising.”
Chew’s departure was one of 13 since the reorganization of Student Affairs. International students have praised her dedication to students and were baffled by her departure.
Gilbert Imbiri, Student Assistant for the International Student Services office, said that the petition was read and approved by the International Student Club, but that the petition is as far as their concerns will go.
“That’s all we can do is sponsor it,” Imbiri said. “We all live with a student visa status so we just don’t want to get in trouble.”
Before the end of the semester, petition organizers sent the signed document to administrators, who did not directly respond to the request. Missouri law protects former employees from their employers by not allowing them to release information about their former employment.
Sharon Moore, one of the students who helped write the petition, said she had mixed feelings about Peralez’s response. Esther Peralez, Vice President for Student Affairs, responded to the petition by stating that Missouri law prevented her from disclosing information about Chew’s employment, but told Moore that if she had any concerns they should discuss them with Tay Triggs, assistant dean of student development or Steve Potter, international student adviser.
“What we were asking for was something that the college could not comply with under the sunshine laws,” Moore said. “So, I understood the response in that sense, but on the other hand, she could have definitely made an effort to find a different way in her power to address our concerns.”
While Triggs respects the students’ right to ask questions, she wishes that students would focus on concerns that affect the entire student body or things that the administration can control.
“They have a right to ask questions,” Triggs said. “I just hate that we can’t answer a lot of those questions.”
While the position remains empty, Imbiri is filling in the gaps by helping new international students adjust. Last week was the start of orientation for new international students. Imbiri also said that Potter has been helping after Chew’s departure. Even with the extra help, Imbiri said that the International Student Services office is struggling.
“It feels empty,” Imbiri said. “There’s no body in charge. This semester just began and a lot of students need help.”
The search committee has yet to fill the position, but Imbiri said that several interviews have been scheduled.
“It’s a field that needs a specific someone to do it,” Imbiri said, “When she left, I’m the one kind of in charge of all the students. It’s frustrating because I’m just a student too.”
Triggs hopes to have the position filled by March at the latest. She also said that the new Director for Global Engagement should have a breadth of knowledge and be able to provide leadership.
“It’s not just about someone having an open door policy and having a great relationship with students,” Triggs said. “You’ll find that all over campus. But we also need someone who can come in a give the university some direction in regards to the international program.”